Merrick County's 100th Year: 1858-1958


The early settlement of Clarks and vicinity dates back to 1865, when Calvin B. Hartwell located about' three miles northeast of the present town and opened a ranch for the accommodation of stage coach passengers and other travelers. In the early day the term "ranch" meant a sort of country inn, stagecoach station, and supply depot, not too different from the present day motel. The Hartwell home was called Junction Ranch and it was at this point that the Mormon Trail and the old Military Road joined.

In the first years, after the coming of the Hartwell family, the community life of the few scattered homesteaders centered around Junction Ranch. Mrs. Maud Brown, now a resident of Clarks, is a granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Hartwell.

Clarks was platted in 1866 and was named after Mr. S. H. H. Clark, then superintendent of the Union Pacific. That year, John McLean settled there, and in 1868 came A. Kerr, Thomas Tague and F. Coyle.

In 1869, Clarks post office was established with Mr. Kerr as postmaster and in 1871, the first school was opened and held in a sod shanty erected on the C. D. Hartwell land.

The first religious services were held in the winter of 1869-70 at the Hartwell home by Rev. David Marquette, a Methodist minister. There were also services held in the home of John Higgins on section 21, by Father Ryan. In the spring of 1871, the first Sunday School was organized, called the Union Sunday School, with A. P. Daniels as superintendent. Rev. John Gunderman, of the Baptist denomination, held services in the granary on the Jesse Turner farm and the congregation filled the building to overflowing.

The Clarks Messenger was the first newspaper of the town with the first issue on May 1, 1878, James J. Kreider, editor. The following year, after the sudden disappearance of Kreider, J. C. Hartwell took over. In 1890, the name was changed to The Clarks Leader. The Clarks Enterprise was established in 1892, and continued publication 58 years, being discontinued in 1948, when the publishers, Al Leonard and Marie Carlson, moved the equipment to Cedar Rapids, Nebraska. In 1950, John L. Carter purchased the Silver Creek Sand, moved the plant to Clarks and started the Clarks News, printing both papers in Clarks.

Clarks prospered and grew and during the 1890's was easily the second town in the county in size, with over 600 population.

C. E. Persinger, in his "History of Merrick County," says that there was onetime in the early days when Clarks lacked only one vote of being selected as the state capital. That was when pressure was being applied to the state legislature to move the capital to some point nearer the center of the state.

Clarks is a town of nice homes, beautiful trees and more paved streets than most towns its size. The people are friendly and progressive. It has a good public library which is open daily. Its schools and its bank rank high.

Compliments of FARMERS UNION CO-OP., Clarks
Gas, Cream, Produce



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Site Updated: 03 December 2015